Ami walked happily next to Makoto, hand in hand. It was a brisk autumn day, and the pair were taking a walk through a park near their shared apartment. Ami was pleased to be spending a quiet evening with her girlfriend. She had a long day at University, and they didn't have as much time to spend together as they used to when they started dating. It was also nice that there were no supernatural threats at the moment requiring Sailor Mercury or Sailor Jupiter. It had been quiet for a while, in that regard. The Sailor Guardians made sure to keep in shape and ready for anything they might need to deal with, but there hadn't been as much need for it since Galaxia's defeat. An occasional roaming space monster happened across earth, but certainly nothing too dangerous or involved.
Ami and Makoto both turned back to look at the source of the meow. It had been a very loud, almost insistent meow, though it hadn't sounded like Luna or Artemis. If anything, it had sounded more like Diana, their as of yet unborn kitten from the future.
“Aww, look! Such a cute kitten!” Makoto cooed as a small black kitten with a red bandanna tied around its neck approached the pair. She knelt down and held out her hand to the small creature. “Do you think he's lost?” she asked, sparing a glance from the kitten to Ami.
“Maybe,” Ami said, looking at the kitten as it reached Makoto's hand. Rather than the usual curious sniff, however, it simply sat down in front of them. “It does look well groomed, and the bandanna is pretty clean. If not for his age I'd say he's just an outdoor cat who comes home regularly. But since he's obviously just a kitten he might have just recently gotten lost. See if there's a collar under his bandanna,” she directed, as she looked around the area to see if she could see anyone searching for a kitten.
“I'm not lost,” a voice said. At the same moment the world changed. Makoto and Ami both gasped and the park faded away, and they found themselves in a strange world of flowing shades of red.
Instinctively, Makoto and Ami stood back to back, hands in their pockets and around their transformation wands, ready to change the instant they needed to.
“Whoa, relax ladies. I know it's weird, but I can't talk to you anywhere else.”
They looked at the source of the voice. There, the only thing other than each other in this world of red, was the black kitten with the bandanna.
“You're the one talking?” Makoto asked. She didn't have a tone of surprise, rather just the tone of one seeking confirmation.
“That's right,” the kitten said.
“Where are we?” Ami asked. “And why can't you talk to us normally, where we were?”
The kitten tilted its head curiously. “You don't know where you are? Also, why would I be able to speak to you before? I'm a cat! It's not like cats can just walk up and introduce themselves, you know.”
“You just haven't met the right cats,” Makoto said. She then clapped her hands over her mouth. “I didn't say that! I just thought it!”
“Yeah, that can be a problem. It's a little difficult to keep secrets while talking in the realm of the dead. After all, we aren't so much talking to each other as we're thinking loudly.” The cat chuckled a very human-like chuckle. “Still, I'm surprised you hadn't figured out where we are. You have to have been here before.”
Ami shook her head. “It's not familiar to me. But you called this place the realm of the dead? Does that mean we're dead right now?”
Sissel blinked. Apparently whatever he had been expecting, this wasn't it. “Well, no. Not right now. But... the two of you have died before, right? Also, you seem very calm for two people talking to a cat ghost in a place that might have meant you were dead.”
“You're a ghost?” Ami asked, looking at the kitten. “You look surprisingly corporeal. And we've dealt with talking cats before.”
“And being dead,” Makoto said, a shiver going through her. “Though not talking to dead cats, at least as far as I can recall. This is a first.”
“Forgive me,” the kitten said. “I haven't even introduced myself properly, and that's the whole reason I brought you here. My name is Sissel, and yes, I am a ghost. However, I also have a corporeal body. I'm possessing it, but it is both alive and dead at any given moment, and I can leave it to possess other non-living objects if I need to.”
“You sure you're name isn't Schrodinger?” Ami asked.
“Hah hah, yes, Schrodinger's cat is both alive and dead and neither at the same time. Like I've never heard that before.”
“Umm, sorry?” Ami offered.
Sissel sighed. “It's okay. Just... I get that one a lot. Well, not that I get to talk to many people. Despite my age, I've met very few people I can actually talk to. Or, at least, think loudly at like this.”
“Your age?” Makoto asked. “You look quite young.”
“Looks can be deceiving,” Sissel said. “I would still be pretty young by human standards, but 15 is pretty old for a cat. However, I became this way when I was a kitten, so a kitten I shall forever remain.”
“Oh,” Makoto said, nodding. “I guess that makes sense. At least as much sense as any of this.”
“When you say 'forever', do you mean forever forever?” Ami asked. “Or just far longer than any normal cat would be able to comprehend?”
Sissel seemed to think about that for a moment. “I'm pretty sure I mean forever forever. Admittedly, I've only been like this for 15 years, and Yomiel only spent 10 years like this, but neither of us ever had any reason to believe it would eventually stop. But who knows, maybe it will fade in 50, 100, 1000 years. Who's to say?” He shook his head again. “But I'm getting off topic. You two are remarkable women. You're aware of having died before, and you say you've talked with cats before now. You must have very interesting lives you lead.”
“Which life is he talking about though?” Makoto face-palmed. “Sorry, that thought wasn't meant to get out either.”
Ami patted her girlfriend's shoulder reassuringly. “Even if Sissel does learn some of our secrets, no one would blame either of us for thinking too loudly. And it does seem there aren't many people he can communicate with.”
“True,” Sissel nodded. “I can only communicate with those who have spent time dead, and were conscious at the time. If you never knew you were dead, or if you've never died at all, then I'm just another random kitten as far as their concerned.”
“Ah,” Makoto said, “so that's how you knew we've died before.”
“Precisely,” Sissel said. “Not many people meet those criteria, so I always try to introduce myself when I meet someone who does. You two shine like beacons to a ghost like me.”
“That's not surprising, given our nature.” This time Ami was the one who sighed. “Didn't want to say that out loud,” Ami apologized.
“Look, if it makes you two feel better, whatever secret you're trying to keep doesn't really matter to me. I'll try not to tell anyone, although like I said, keeping secrets here can be hard. But I am a cat, so I have no interest in most things people do. So I'm not going to blackmail you or anything like that.”
“Not even for extra tuna?” Makoto asked chuckling.
“That's the thing about my immortal condition,” Sissel said, “no sense of taste. Or smell. And I'm pretty sure my sense of sight, hearing, and touch don't rely on this body's senses. They seem more to go off of my ghost senses. Probably a good thing too. If I needed eyes to be able to see and ears to hear, I'd be pretty useless while possessing a traffic cone. Or whatever I happen to possess at the time. Anyway, with so very few people I even can talk to it'd be hard to share your secret if I wanted to, and there are even fewer people I talk to with any regularity. And they're all pretty trustworthy people.”
“Yeah?” Makoto asked. “Who else can you talk to?”
“The occasional person who's life I've saved. Detective Jowd is my owner, officially speaking. Not that I really need one, and I can talk to him. Yomiel I can also talk to. For quite a while I couldn't talk to Lynne, but she managed to get herself killed again a couple years ago, first time this timeline, so of course I saved her and now she and I can talk again. She's managed to only die twice so far in this timeline though, so that's a win in my book.”
Sissel looked up at the two. “I get the feeling that I'd be hearing very confused thoughts from you both, but you can't figure out words to think your confusion out.”
“That about sums it up,” Makoto agreed. “There's so much to unpack there.”
Sissel sighed. “I guess you guys haven't dealt with ghosts much before. My specialty as a ghost is to find people who've recently died, either from accident or murder, and save them. I can reverse time to shortly before they died, and then use my other ghost tricks to save them. So I leave my kitten body, possess whatever might be useful in the area, and keep people alive.”
“That explains being familiar with different timelines,” Ami said. “But, for example, this Lynne person you mentioned, you said had died twice this timeline. But you still speak to her, so I assume you saved her, so doesn't that mean she hasn't died at all in this timeline?”
“I don't follow,” Makoto said.
“Technically, yes,” Sissel agreed. “But I don't count changing things from four minutes before the death of someone who's been dead less than 24 hours creating a whole new timeline. That'd be super hard to keep track of.”
“So what do you mean when you mention different timelines?” Ami asked. “Can you travel further back in time than that?”
“Not normally,” Sissel shook his head. “But there was one incident. A jump back in time 10 years happened. That happened twice, so I'm referring to one of those three timelines when I talk about timelines.”
“Three?” Makoto wondered. “You said it happened twice.”
“One timeline where no jump occurred, one timeline where the jump occurred once, and one when both jumps occurred,” Ami provided. Makoto nodded, and gestured for Ami to continue. “So I'm guessing your powers helped keep things from getting locked in an unbreakable time loop.”
Sissel looked down, almost looking ashamed. “Well, yeah, eventually. But I can't really take credit for that. Only one jump probably would've been needed if I'd helped out in the first timeline. Although, to be fair, I have no memories of that timeline. I know the second timeline and this one, the third.”
“Pluto should probably speak to him.” Makoto said. It looked like she hadn't wanted to say that out loud either, but didn't mind that as much as her earlier accidental thoughts.
“Saturn too,” Ami said, nodding in agreement. “He may have broken taboos. Though he seems to be doing good with his powers.”
Makoto shrugged. “Pluto did good. Didn't stop her from being punished.”
“I'd hate to think what a punishment for breaking a taboo of Saturn's would be.”
Makoto nodded, a grimace on her face. “Yeah, that sounds bad.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Sissel said. “Now I'm the one confused. What are you talking about?”
Ami and Makoto looked at each other, and shrugged. “I guess since you'll need to speak to some of our friends, there's no real point hiding our secret,” Ami said.
“You're assuming I can talk to your friends,” Sissel said.
“You can talk to them,” Makoto assured. “All our friends have spent more time dead than they'd care to admit.” She looked to Ami. “How many times have we died?”
“I would only say twice, but there is a third if you count our past life. Sailor Moon is at least one up on us either way.”
Makoto nodded. “I guess. Seems like more though.”
Sissel looked at them curiously. “If you don't have experience with ghosts, then how did you undo your deaths?”
Ami smiled warmly. “We may not have had ghost friends, but we have Sailor Moon. She's better than any ghost.” Ami's eyes widened suddenly. “Um, no offense. To you or any ghost friends you might have.”
“None taken, I guess,” Sissel said hesitantly.
“Anyway, I don't know how much you know about the Sailor Guardians,” Makoto said, “but you're about to meet some of them. Or rather, some more of them.”
Sissel had a thoughtful look on his face. “Sailor Guardians? Sounds familiar. I think Lynne has some manga of one of them. And I think I recall she and Jowd talking about them in relation to some case a little while back. No one was dead though, so I just tuned them out.”
“You really are a cat,” Makoto said, chuckling.
“Sailor Guardians have certain cosmic duties, and powers that go along with that,” Ami explained. “I'm afraid we're going to have to show you to the guardians of time and death and make sure you haven't damaged the universe in any way.”
“Wait, guardians of time and death?” Sissel asked. “What kind of powers do you have if you're guarding that!”
“Let's just say if they decide you need to be punished, you might find immortality a lot shorter than you expected. But I promise we'll put in a good word for you,” Makoto tried to reassure the now panicking ghost cat.
“What's the emergency?” Setsuna asked. The Sailor Guardians had gathered at the Hikawa shrine after a confusing call from Makoto. Normally if something came up the inners would try to take care of it themselves, but Makoto had insisted Setsuna and Hotaru be there too, and Haruka and Michiru had refused to stay behind after that.
“Don't know,” Rei said. “Makoto and Ami aren't here yet.”
“Sorry we're late!” Ami said, as she and Makoto ran up the steps to the shrine. “We would've been here sooner, but we tried to find where Sissel ran off to.”
“Turns out,” Makoto said, “when that cat gets nervous and decides to run away there's no way to find him.”
Luna looked up at them. “You were looking for a cat?”
They nodded, and Makoto pulled out a black kitten from her purse. “This cat. No clue where he went.”
They looked at the limp kitten for a moment.
“Is he... dead?” Artemis asked.
“Sort of,” Makoto said. “It's a long story. By the way, Hotaru, what's the punishment if you break taboos about death? Just asking for a friend.”